Does Season 10 of “The X-Files” recapture the feeling of the original show?

What I had hoped for with Season 10 was all our favorite The X-Files writers in a room, planning a super cool 6-episode arc of supernatural badassery that would warrant pulling Mulder and Scully out of retirement and back into the business of finding the truth. Did we get that? While I wish I could yell, “Yes! Yes! My show returned and it was awesome!” I cannot. There is a divide. The Greater Three Episodes and the Lesser Three.

Chris Carter’s episodes are the Lesser Three. Sorry, bro.

[Warning: Spoilers for a good part of Season 10. Do not read if you wish to remain unspoiled.]

The waiting hug from the episode, “Home Again”

Responding to this question feels like the perfect opportunity to unleash my full feelings about Season 10. There is both beauty and sorrow in returning to a beloved thing or place, and as one of my favorite movies, Now & Then (1995), starts out, “Thomas Woolf once said, you can’t go home again. Well that’s easy for ol’ Tom.”

Indeed, that is easy to say but not so easy to do. We are all tempted to return home again, to walk our old high school halls, to drive past where a good friend once lived, to eat at the diner we would always frequent after school dances. That is the way watching Season 10 of the X-Files partially felt like for me. I started watching the show around age 12 or 13, and that was just about 20 years ago. It was an integral part of my teen years, and as I mentioned in my previous writings on The X-Files, it taught me what it was to be a fan and part of a fandom. For someone as story- and media-oriented as I am, queueing up an episode of The X-Files feels like coming home.

In fact, the fourth installment of The X-Files Season 10 is entitled “Home Again.” Glen Morgan wrote it, as he did many classic The X-Files outings, and at the Entertainment Weekly Fest panel this past October he said that it wasn’t a sequel to a previous episode he wrote entitled “Home” (the only XF ep ever to be banned from television after its initial airing for its graphic nature) but instead a combination of the title “Home” and another episode he penned, “Never Again.” I think he did himself a slight disservice by referring to it as such, since it was so much more than that. I’ll return to “Home Again” in a minute, however.

Mulder and Scully: Conversation on the Couch

Mostly due to actor scheduling and not knowing if a revival of The X-Files would be a success, there were only six episodes in Season 10. We the fans wanted more, of course, something like 10 or 12. TV seasons have shortened down in the past 14 years since XF went off the air, a trend that generally encourages tighter storytelling and less filler. Episodes can be plotted further in advance and tied into a more cohesive whole.

What I had hoped for was all our favorite XF writers in a room, planning a super cool 6-episode arc of supernatural badassery that would warrant pulling Mulder and Scully out of retirement and back into the business of finding the truth. Did we get that? While I wish I could yell, “Yes! Yes! My show returned and it was awesome!” I cannot. There is a divide. The Greater Three, and the Lesser Three.

The first episode, “My Struggle Part 1,” was written by series creator Chris Carter, as were the last two, entitled “Babylon” and “My Struggle Part 2”. The middle three were written by James Wong (“Founder’s Mutation”), Darin Morgan (“Mulder and Scully Meet the Weremonster”), and Glen Morgan (the aforementioned “Home Again”). Chris Carter’s episodes are the Lesser Three. Sorry, bro.

The writing was disjointed, plot points were introduced and then never seen again (Roswell doctor? Sveta?), and there were some heavy doses of Carter’s hatred of organized religion and uber-clunky dialogue that feel flat when it was supposed to be smart and natural. There was also blatant Islamophobia and frankly racist sentiment in “Babylon” – that was just 95% terrible, and my eyes almost bled from secondhand Mulder embarrassment as he went on an acid-trip line dancing spree. Yeah, you read that right. I cannot even deal with that. Not to mention the introduction of two younger doppelganger agents, one of whom was blatantly rude at every turn. No, thanks. Don’t bring our agents back just to insult and invalidate them.

Stills from the episode “My Struggle Part 2”

Carter also split Mulder and Scully up, not just romantically, but he actually did not have them sharing the screen for most of these three episodes. Why in Hades would you take half of your highly-anticipated return to TV and spit in the face of the glorious chemistry between David and Gillian? WHY?

Chris Carter is missing a crucial factor in the reason why everyone was excited beyond all reason to have The X-Files back in their living rooms every week. He thinks we all watched for the aliens and the black oil and the backstabbing circuitous government conspiracy! My sweet, summer child. We care about Mulder and Scully. Thus, sadly, Carter’s episodes do not recapture the feeling of the original run. Not even close.

Thank God for the Greater Three.

Mulder and Scully flashing the badge in the episode “Home Again”

James Wong’s episode, “Founder’s Mutation,” had Mulder and Scully back on the case straight away, investigating the weird. That alone felt lovely. Wong also did not ignore the history between our two intrepid agents, and we saw them have their first ever conversation about giving their son up for adoption. Both were and are still grieving this loss, as we saw in two what-if flashes, one where Scully takes William to school and one where Mulder is showing him 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for the first time and then helping him shoot off rockets in the backyard. We see what was taken from them – the ability to be parents. Was it sad? Yes. But the original was never sunshine and roses. It felt real.

Still from outside the hospital in James Wong’s episode, “Founder’s Mutation”

Darin Morgan wrote the audience favorite of these six, a madcap monster chase of an episode with some deep existentialism thrown in. Mulder is disillusioned by aging, by so many X-Files having been explained by nature or human stupidity in his absence, and by the camera app on his new smartphone. It is literally just like old times – murders in the forest, a creature on the loose, Scully doing autopsies and the two of them running around cornfields with their guns drawn and flashlights out. It just happened to be a loopy story of a weremonster who got bitten by a human and turned into one every day: a reverse vampire (and he hated the monotony of finding a job and getting up every morning).

Mulder was returned to top raving, monster-theory form, and Scully delighted in his return. We rarely got to see Scully take delight in anything, so this was a particularly lovely moment. There were a ton of Easter eggs thrown in for all of us old-school fans, too.

Darin only wrote a few episodes back in the day, but they are all fan favorites. He brought me feelings of true joy with this episode, which is harder and harder to do the more TV I watch (and I watch a lot). I probably haven’t felt that excited about an episode of TV since Lost ended in 2010. He wins the gold for this contribution.

Still from Darin Morgan’s episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Weremonster”

Darin’s brother, Glen Morgan, takes the silver. Glen’s “Home Again” was again not a happy episode, but it was full of rich moments for Scully and Mulder. After the usual gruesome opener, Scully gets a call that her mom has had a heart attack. Scully rushes to her bedside and after a bit of investigating, Mulder leaves the case to join her. No one wanted Maggie Scully to die, but from her lying unconscious to her brief, heart-wrenching final words (spoken to Mulder, not to her daughter), her death allowed Gillian Anderson’s Emmy- and Evening-Standard-winning talent to shine through. She and Mulder had a couple really great, moving exchanges, and her brief moments of hysteria in his arms will have to be enough to sustain us all until a possible Season 11.

The final scene of “Home Again,” which Gillian dubbed on her Twitter as “the Conversation on the Log,” had us all hyped up for a great exchange. It showed just Mulder and Scully at the edge of a lake on a rainy day, Maggie’s ashes in an urn by their feet. Scully tells Mulder of her sorrow, not just for her mother but for the son she gave away. Upon watching it a second time, I realized that Mulder doesn’t actually say a single word. That downright shocked me because they still had a conversation, in the way only they can. Scully even called Mulder by his first name, “Fox,” which we haven’t seen happen in 23 years, and she even said, “The truth is out there,” and it was not cheesy and not dramatic. It was perfect.

The Conversation on the Log scene from the episode, “Home Again”

So yes, those three episodes did recapture the feeling of the original run. It is a shame that the supposedly overarching story and climactic moments of the premiere/finale only served to anger fans, and not because it ended on a cliffhanger. I expect a cliffhanger out of this show. But I don’t expect the same tired tropes: Mulder taking off without telling anyone where, refusing to answer his phone, the Cigarette Smoking Man monologuing and generally being a jerk – that we didn’t like 20 years ago, let alone now. I also didn’t expect the complete character assassination of Monica Reyes (a character I don’t even like, so my irritation at what she did is even worse somehow) and the almost non-presence of Skinner, who could have been used to much greater effect (I love the Skin-man!).

Scully was generally on point, but man did everything feel rushed. They didn’t give themselves enough time, and the pacing was so off. All of these things add up to why fans and critics alike have dubbed Chris Carter the next George Lucas, who is so overly impressed with what he created that he can no longer be trusted to write credible dialogue and snappy plotlines. His ideas are good, but the execution needs to be left in someone else’s more capable hands. It is time to stop dismissing the fandom and our legitimate, educated thoughts on these issues.

To be honest, the X-Files fandom never really died away. With the advent of Netflix and binge watching, there is a whole new generation that adores The X-Files, makes hilarious memes, and holds Twitter rewatch parties. David and Gillian have hordes of new fans, their Twitter followings alone ballooning by the thousands since the revival was announced. (Gillian’s twitter is particularly hilarious and on point. For someone who claims to dislike social media, she, or her team, is remarkably good at it.) The X-Files fandom is a force to be reckoned with, and social media makes us much, much louder than we were when confined to message boards and chatrooms. The X-Files broke GLOBAL viewing records, with over 50 million views on the first two episodes alone. Pretty crazy for a 23-year-old show. People even watched live, a phenomenon unheard of in this age of Hulu and DVRs.

Finally, never underestimate the power of nostalgia. The power of seeing David and Gillian inhabiting the complex, layered characters that are now iconic and launched them to megastardom cannot be overstated. I’m just glad that some of the old guard still know how to treat them well. Hopefully this powerful nostalgia will bring the new Hollywood talent that grew up with the show into the spotlight, and we’ll see some fresh writing and directing with a hopeful Season 11. Perhaps – shockingly – a woman might get to take the reins. Out of 208 episodes and two feature films, only 7 episodes were written and two directed by women, one of whom was Gillian Anderson. How crazy is that? Given that women appear to make up the majority of the fanbase, it is high time. And guess what? I’m available.

Handholding in the episode, “Babylon”